Find Free Marketing Opportunities for Your Small Business - dummies

Find Free Marketing Opportunities for Your Small Business

By Barbara Findlay Schenck

For all the money that small businesses spend on marketing, they often look right past free opportunities to add marketing messages to their own products, vehicles, and more. With the right moves you can amplify your marketing message with practically no investment at all.

Turn your small business packaging into ad vehicles

Every time you package a product for a customer, you’re creating a vehicle that can give your marketing message a free ride. You incur practically no cost when you add an in-pack advertising message that’s certain to reach a valid prospect because the recipient has already made a purchase.

Manufacturers can affix or print ads right onto product cartons or enclose materials in the box to invite the purchase of accessories, warranties, service programs, or other offers. Repair businesses can affix service labels that remind owners who to call for future needs.

Retailers can drop into each shopping bag an invitation to join a frequent customer club, to request automatic delivery of future orders, or to redeem a special offer on a future purchase (called a bounce-back offer because it aims to bounce a customer back into your business).

For example, a pool or hot tub chemical supply company can enclose a flier offering a monthly service program, automatic twice-a-year chemical delivery, or an annual maintenance visit.

Build your small business with gift certificates

It’s astonishing how many small businesses make a gift certificate request seem like an inconvenience, when actually it’s the sincerest form of customer compliment. If someone wants to give your business offerings as a gift, roll out the red carpet. Here’s how:

  • Create a gift certificate form. This form can convey the gift’s details while also enhancing the gift’s perceived value simply by its creative presentation. Use quality paper, a professional design that matches your company image, and a look that’s appropriate to the nature of your business offering.

  • Package the certificate in an envelope or a gift box. The gift certificate buyer is a current customer making an effort to bring a new person into your business. Reward the effort with a package that flatters both the gift giver and your business.

  • When the gift is redeemed, get in touch with both parties. Reinforce your relationship with the gift buyer by sharing that the certificate was redeemed and that you and your staff were flattered by the gift choice.

    Send a separate mailing to the gift recipient, welcoming the person to your business and enclosing an offer such as a free subscription to your newsletter, a special new-customer invitation, a frequent-shopper club membership, or some other reason for the person to become a loyal customer of your business.

  • If the deadline is nearing on an unredeemed certificate, contact the gift recipient. Offer a short extension or invite a phone or online order to build goodwill rather than let the certificate lapse.

Advertise free with business cards for your small business

Even as talk of business-card obsolescence rages, people are ordering more cards today than ever before. That’s because business cards are still the tools that break the ice, make good impressions, and ease follow-up contact for you and your business.

Even the highest-quality business cards cost only a few cents each, and the price keeps going down with each new card-printing service that opens online. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more economical way to get your name and brand image into your marketplace.

To create a business card that makes a strong statement, use a professional design, a typestyle and ink selection that match the graphic image of your brand, quality paper, good printing, and a straight cut (nothing looks cheaper than a card with a crooked cut). Follow this advice:

  • Invest a few hours with a graphic designer to achieve a distinctive, professional design that enhances your company image. Unless you’re certain of their design talents, don’t ask staff members or quick-print shop designers to create your card.

    For online production, compare options at TopTenREVIEWS. Click Small Business and then Business Card Printing.

  • Be sure your card features your business name and logo, your phone number, and your contact information in a type size that people can easily read. Also include either a slogan or tagline or a short description of your business offerings.

  • Keep your card design simple. Use a standard size that’s convenient for recipients to file, and present contact information in a typeface that scanning software can read.

  • Print cards for each employee. It’s great for staff morale, and when employees use their cards to introduce your business to their friends and business contacts, you recoup the cost of the cards many times over.

If you print the back of your card with simple directions or other information, keep your logo, name, title, and contact information on the front. Many people scan business cards or keep them in files in which only the front side is visible.

Make the most of advertising specialties for your small business

Advertising specialties are ubiquitous and inexpensive mind-joggers for your business. They include giveaways such as pens, pencils, refrigerator magnets, mouse pads, matchbooks, notepads, paperweights, pocketknives, calendars, calculators, T-shirts, golf towels, and a long list of other items that can be printed, engraved, embossed, or emblazoned with a business logo.

Most specialty advertising items are cheap — and they often look it. When investing in an advertising specialty, follow this advice:

  • Select items that relate to your business and that advance a reminder of the benefits you offer.

  • Choose items that your customers want or need and things that they’ll notice, pick up, and keep for at least a short time.

  • Opt only for items that add to your business image, not detract from it.

  • Decide how to feature your name on the item. If the item is targeted for prospects or clients who value quality and exclusivity, make your name subtle and scaled to the item rather than in a gaudy design that monopolizes the item and assures its quick trip to the trash can.

  • Know how you’ll distribute the items before you place an order for advertising specialties.

For information on the unbelievably wide range of specialties available, search online for “ad specialties and promotional items.”